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Nairobi’s Urban Hotspots: part 1

 

Afrika is booming. It isn’t the first time that we try to convey this message, and it most certainly won’t be the last. To show hipsters all around the world how it’s done, we present to you: Nairobi, the East African urban paradise. These are places you go to when you’re young and creative, and you happen to live in the Kenyan capital. This week: the first set of five urban hotspots.

 

1. The Goethe Institut Kenya

Nairobi urban hotspots 1

The Goethe Institut is a global German institute, and focuses primarily on educating other parts of the world in the German language and culture. Additionally, the Kenyan establishment is well-known for its cultural activities. In collaboration with young artists and independent cultural ventures they organize a wide spectrum of activities where the main focus lies on the newest generation of African music, film, and art. Keep an eye on their Facebook to see what kind of events are up next!

 

2. Nairobi Garage

Nairobi creative hotspots 2

Start-ups! Co-working! If you’re a millennial, it’s hard to not get excited when these terms are being used. Nairobi Garage is the co-working space of Nairobi. For a small amount per month, the future of Kenya has a place to further develop their concepts and simultaneously create and/or expand their network in the capital. With open co-work spaces, closed off conference rooms, fast WiFi, and most importantly: free coffee, it’s no wonder that the majority of Nairobi’s young and creative scene can be found here.

 

3. East African Soul Train (E.A.S.T.)

Nairobi urban event hotspots 3

The Kenyan railway system, which stretches from Mombasa till Kisumu, was strategically laid down at the end of the 19th century. Where its original function was to aid the British in maintaining control over ‘their’ grounds, it now forms the location for E.A.S.T: an annual creative event where the historic route is travelled by talented East African artists. Curious about what this results into? Follow their Instagram and Facebook.

 

4. Blankets & Wine

 

The idea is simple: bring a bottle of wine, a picnic basket, and a blanket. Combine these three attributes with a music programme that’s made up entirely out of young African talent, and a formula is born. Repeat this every first Sunday of the month until you become an East African legend. Mutoni Ndonga came up with this incentive, named it ‘Blankets & Wine’, and the rest is history. Blankets & Wine quickly moved from Nairobi to Uganda, and has its debut in Rwanda this year. Wherever B&W goes (or will go), the programme stays true to the environment in which it’s located. Where it once started as a platform for the promotion of Kenyan music, it has grown into an Africa-wide event focusing on regional art, literature, music, fashion, and theater.

 

5. Wasp & Sprout

Nairobi urban hotspots . 5

Wasp & Sprout has recreated the classic ‘hipster-coffeebar-style’ while adding an African twist to it: we can check ‘bike hanging from wall’, ‘use of industrial materials’, and ‘retro furniture’ off our list. But even though one visit is enough to maintain your hipster-levels for quite some time, there’s more to this dynamic café than you might think. In Nairobi, where most coffee bars are part of a bigger concern, W&S is a unique gem where you could easily (and happily) order half the menu. Next to making cappuccinos, they produce their own interior design-collection, and they offer a platform for local artists to display their art. In short: here you go to get your coffee with a side of cake and cultural incentive.

Why all CEMSIES should move to Africa to start a business – LIKE I DID

 

Hi there, staring at your computer… you’re probably bored. I know EXACTLY how that feels, because I have done it for the past 5 years. Working for a big corporate, stagnant lifestyle, daily bureaucratic hassle…. until I QUIT!

It seems to be a trend in our generation: we are in search of ourselves, on the lookout for adventure, have a need to travel. On a large scale millennials are moving away from corporates and becoming a yogi’s instead. That’s fine. But a lifetime of downwards dogging does not satisfy. Besides, as I’m talking to CEMSies: we have grown to be a bit more ambitious than that. The ultimate goal: find a job that combines my business aspirations with a more exciting private life than an exhausting 9-5. So here’s my plea, to every CEMSie: consider Africa, bwana 🙂

3 business opportunities why you should move to Africa:

  1. Western concepts work in East Africa

As the East African economy is booming: a growing middle class and expat community is in need of new – often western – products and retail especially food consumption comes second in terms of spending after telecom and financial services

Example: the hipster place coffee bar Wasp and Sprout. Tapping into the need for a good place to have a chai latte and a running wifi connection, this place is an oasis for the remote worker and socialite mom. European cities are filled with these kind of places, a complete overload. Thing is: it’s still new and very wanted in Kenya.  

 

  1. Franchise

Kenyans LOVE chains, and are begging for more. People here want the same experience as customers everywhere in the world, good quality products and an enjoyable customer experience. One successful entrepreneur that I know set up the Subway and Pizza Hut franchise in Tanzania and Kenya. Kenyan people have embraced pizza earlier than sandwiches but they are rapidly picking up on good, healthy food for fair prices. At the moment both chains are still expanding planning to take over neighbouring markets like Uganda, Angola, Ghana.

Why East Africa? Challenges like getting a franchise license, finding quality suppliers and structural hurdles are inevitable, but that’s just one more reason why you should come here now and set footprint in the East African market before it gets crowded.

Doing business in East Africa has a big developmental element compared to other markets that might be easier to operate in, but are not necessarily socially responsible having a big development impact: “At its core is the belief that in Africa it is possible to make money while doing good.” (source: Christopher J. Bak, for How we made it in Africa). Read the whole interview here

  1. Leapfrogging economy

New technologies are rapidly transforming societies, especially in Africa. Take Mpesa for example. An advanced mobile payment method which originated in Kenya and is spreading fast through Africa. Only 25% of people in Africa have a bank account. The rest do not have access to safe and secure banking solutions. Almost 75% of people in Africa have access to a mobile phone, so a mobile money service was the solution. You can use MPESA to transfer money directly to for example your family on the other side of the country, or to pay at the supermarket. More about the benefits of mobile money in this article.

Not only is East Africa a frontrunner in new banking solutions, also in energy. As most of the country has to access to power, Kenya is pioneering in supplying the most remote areas with solar panels. Have a look at this solar panel company breaking the frontier.  Have a look at this energy supplier start-up Pawame.

By now you must be wondering why am I writing this? Well I am sitting on the terrace of our amazing Villa in Nairobi, overlooking a jungle-like garden and working ….yeah i know, not exactly the standard office. What am I doing here? Well long story short I am setting up my own business unit in an off-the-beaten-track travel start up www.charlies-travels.com. The most unique and adventurous trips you can imagine in Africa: we’re organizing them. So not ready to quit your job yet, but ready for an adventurous investigation trip? Send me a message, and I’ll happily walk you through the possibilities 🙂  

I am always keen to brainstorm about more opportunities. There are lots, i see them everywhere. Reach out to me cristina@charlies-travels.com.

 

Lady Cath’s first week in Nairobi: Bye Bye land of Cheese!!

 

Een avontuur is pas echt begonnen als je kunt zeggen dat je een potje goed hebt staan janken op een vliegveld. Aangezien mijn brakke hart de emoties niet aan kon, liet ik de tranen aan mijn moeder over. Next destination: de Charlie’s Travels HQ in KENIA! Blog 1 vanuit Nairobi voor alle avontuurlijke dromers. Wat komt er op je af? Wat zijn mijn eerste indrukken?

Natte kussen en dikke doei

Het avontuur begint natuurlijk eigenlijk al op Nederlandse bodem. Paspoort check, prikken check, tassen ingeleverd en natte kussen uitgedeeld. En dan zit je daar opeens, twaalf uurtjes vliegen voor de boeg en geen idee waar je terecht komt. Zelfs na een nacht niet slapen, stuiter ik bijna mijn stoel af van de spanning. Zoals jullie van mij gewend zijn, kan ik dan ook niet anders dan alles vanaf moment één terugrapporteren via mijn blogs en Instagram.. Mocht je het nog niet doen en het interessant vinden wat meer live updates te volgen van mijn avontuur: volg me dan ff op Instagram @catherina.vanduijn! #instagirl LET THE SPAMMING BEGIN 

Girly mzungu in Nairobi

Turkish Airlines blijkt een stuk comfortabeler dan verwacht. Vol verbazing kijk ik naar het halflege vliegtuig. Voor een luttele 450 euro ben je dus 11.000 kilometer verder. Hoe vet is dat? Check Skyscanner als je me niet geloofd.. Het is echttt. Verder mag je hele ladingen bagage mee (46 kilo!!!), en aangezien ik Wizzair gewend ben, stond ik eigenlijk met een behoorlijke schamele kledingkast voor de incheckbalie. Afijn, ik zal daar in the big Nairobi waarschijnlijk toch geen modeshow hoeven lopen. 

Na tien films die ik maar met een half oog heb kunnen kijken door de excitement, kom ik aan op Nairobi Airport. Het eerste wat me opvalt: ik zwabber niet van het zweet en adem schone, frisse lucht in. De temperatuur is aangenaam en zonder veel moeite kom ik de douane door. Mijn visum van 50 USD is snel binnen en ietwat onzeker ga ik de uitgang tegemoet. Ik klem mijn handtas tegen me aan en steek mijn oorbellen in mijn zak. Onnodig blijkt, want eenmaal buiten lijkt men weinig geïnteresseerd in deze mzungu (dat betekent blanke ben ik inmiddels achter, hier volgt nog een blog over).

Aankomst Charlie’s Travels hut: 04:00. Met het slaap in de ogen en ietwat wankel van de brakheid klim ik mijn safety net uit in de vorm van een wit autootje, waarin ik zo net nog over de verlichte wegen van Nairobi scheurde. De vriendelijke chauffeur Daniel helpt mij met mijn koffers en verdwijnt de donkere nacht weer in. Ik neem de stilte in mij op, terwijl ik omringd word door de donkere bomen en beboste struikgewassen die de compound iets magisch geven.

De Villa

Vanuit the villa komt een halfnaakte man toegesneld. Kan niet anders dan dat dit de befaamde Charles Witlox is. De schone Marieke heeft de homebase verlaten om een paar weken terug te keren naar haar Nederlandse roots. Wat betekent dat het enige semi bekende gezicht, plaats maakt voor de nachtelijke stilte en een huis vol onbekende, slapende collega’s. Ik krijg een kopje thee van the boss en word naar mijn nieuwe stekkie geloodst. Een ruim kamertje met uitzicht op de voor en achtertuin. Ik heb niet alleen een heerlijk bedje, bureau en tropisch hutje voor mezelf, maar krijg er ook nog eens jungle taferelen aan uitzicht bij geserveerd.

 

 

Ontgroening

Drie heerlijke uurtjes slapen verder word ik gewekt door een mechanische takkenherrie (het maandag ochtend alarm, zo weet ik nu). ONTGROENINGGGG, gilt een angststem door mijn hoofd. Ik schrik op, zit al half met mijn naakte lichaam in een van mijn extra kussenslopen, als ik de geruststellende stem van Charles door de deur heen hoor blèren dat ik door kan slapen. Uiteraard lukt dit niet meer, het geroezemoes in het huis en het prachtige uitzicht vanuit mijn kamer maken mij veeeeel te nieuwsgierig.

Dus, bevind ik mij niet veel later op het dakterras naast Charlie’s lovenest. Er wordt mij even uit de doeken gedaan hoe het hele Charlie’s Travels eigenlijk in elkaar steekt, waar hij mij in dit verhaal ziet en wat ik de komende drie maanden ga doen. Behalve mijn handen uit mijn mouwen steken, kan ik duidelijk ook sociaal mijn hart op halen. Lullen, brullen, lollen en SALES. Love it, kan niet wachten. Mooiste van het hele gesprek? “oja, Cath, we willen jou ook even op onze kosten een weekje laten reizen. Om de feeling te krijgen zeg maar.” Zou het apart zijn om je baas direct in een bear hug te nemen? Waarschijnlijk wel, dus ik houd het bij een heel bescheiden “omg, okay lijkt me lache”.

Stagiair gezochttt

Even voor de eeuwige stagiaires onder ons: dit zijn alvast wat redenen waarom jullie met je dikke reet moeten solliciteren!

  • Er wordt de hele dag voor je gekookt door de altijd vrolijke Amir
  • Mercy maakt niet alleen je kamer schoon, maar wast ook je kleren. Ik weet niet hoor, maar alleen al om die reden zou ik mijn biezen pakken
  • Je woont in een gigantische villa waar je niet alleen werkt, maar ook heerlijk woont midden in het groen
  • Je krijgt de mogelijkheid om op kosten van de zaak te reizen.. HALLOOOOOOO, wie wil dit nou niet??
  • Je werkt mee aan het verwezenlijken van zo ongeveer het mooiste wat er is: iemands droomreis
  • Je ticket, visa en klamboe worden vergoed

 

Verder blijkt dus ook nog dat ik er deze drie maanden een potje leuke collega’s bij krijg. Alsof er een blik gezelligheid is opengetrokken, val ik zo met mijn neus in de boter. Een Groningse vrouwen jaarclub komt op hun laatste dagje lustrumreis ook nog even lunchen in the Villa en zo waan ik mij gewoon weer even oer-Hollands tussen de ongemengde gezelligheid.

Om vandaag nog jaloersmakend af te sluiten: ik ga deze week voor het eerst in mijn leven op een motor zitten. Misschien dat mijn kledij de zeven kleuren en angstzweet niet gaan overleven, maar ik zeg BRING IT ON!

So far so good.

De eerste update,

TOEDELS!

Caty

 

 

Why this African festival should be on your bucket list

 

This year Charlie’s Travels is making an effort make African festival accessible to a larger public across seas. After Lake of Stars (Malawi), Kilfi New Years (Kenya), Bushfire (Swaziland) and of course Africa Burn we wish to present you a personal favourite:

Nyege Nyege 2017

 

Raw, crazy, free, unexpected, spontaneous and even salacious. All words that describe Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda, a festival gem, hidden in de banks of the Nile river. The name, Nyege Nyege, is a translation from Lugandan (the language of the Kampala region in Uganda) and means: “the irresistible urge to dance” – and that’s what this festival is all about: the irresistible groove of African music.

The line-up is unlike any you will see in Europe, or the rest of the world. Once inspired by The World Festival of Black Arts (Dakar, 1966), a month long music festival celebrating the creativity of African culture, the founders of Nyege Nyege have taken up the challenge to uncover the underexposed contemporary African music scene. The first edition took place in 2015, and now, with 2017 marking the  third edition, this festival is still relatively small but rapidly gaining fame in Africa as well as oversees.

And this year will be no exception. On September 1-3, beautiful people from all over East Africa and beyond flock to the Nile Discovery Beach in Jinja in Uganda. It’s here where rhythmic African beats will rise from the 4 acres of lush green post-rainy season jungle. And guess what? Early bird tickets are on sale from this week onwards. Drop us a line here, and find out more about this jungle fest.

The experience – by our very own Guy Janssens, who visited the festival with his beautiful girlfriend last year:

Nile Discovery Beach is a 2-hour drive from Kampala, where I was living last year when I went to Nyege Nyege. The setting is amazing. Nothing like any festival I’ve seen back in the Netherlands: so lush and green, right on the banks of the longest and most historic river of Africa. No constructions put in place for the festival, or endless Dixies or fake sand to dance shoeless in.  Just pure jungle fever!

First night: all out. 

There are two stages: One techno/house stage that continues more or less 24/7 (very nice if you keep in mind that the campsite is right next to this stage, I think my tent was literally not more than 50 meters away) and one main stage with all the bands. The artists are almost all African and the music is diverse: from a group of kids dressed in army clothing that rap, to a real African rock band belting out “knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door”. My favorite artist of last year was Joey le Soldat, from Burkina Faso. A very dark, raw and deep hiphop sound from the most badass guy in West Africa.

Friday night I spent most of my time at the techno stage; it was for me the first time in months that I heard good techno as played in clubs at home. Every now and then I went to the main stage, for a hip swinging intermezzo with live African beats. Yes, it is true that when you live in Africa for a few years, you get a better feel for the hip twist… Or at least, that is what my music and what not induced high made me feel like. 

 

Utopian hangover days 

On Saturday I woke up. I crawled out of my tent, eyes squinting and head aching. Usually, staring at a ravished day-after festival terrain makes me want to make a turn straight back to my tent… but the tropical setting of Nyege Nyege invited me to the best hangover day I could have possibly wished for. Strolling around through the mystical jungle terrain, my girl at my side. Sitting at the Nile, taking a dip, and recapping the crazy night with the first beer of the day.

Then food: a variety of stands can be found, anything my energy craving body could wish for: from Mexican, to Ugandan pork, to roasted chicken, to veggie options: “all is there” as Ugandans would say. Of course the famous Ugandan street food rolex is also available. Fried eggs with some vegetables rolled up in a chapatti. 

With a filled belly I passed by a tailor’s hub at was operating on site. They sewed everything from kitenge patches onto your favorite shorts to full on outfits tailored to your liking (at very reasonable prices), it was here that I bought myself the perfect last edition to my blissful hangover day: a hammock. I tied the hammock in between two trees at the main stage and sat there with my girlfriend smoking some Ugandan bush, dangling and swinging to the beats. With an extremely content smile I listened to wide diversity of bands, instruments and voices at the main stage, enjoying the happiness and freedom everybody radiated.

 

Ready for this year? 

Looking back at why the founders first set up Nyege Nyege two years ago, I can only say they more than succeed. They grasped the multitude that African creativity entails – presenting a young inspiring generation the platform they deserve. Don’t miss this.

Contact us to find out all the possibilities on how to make an African festival part of your holiday.

East Africa by motorbike: A story on how to do it

After working Usumbara Mountains of Tanzania for two years I decided it was time to quit my job and return home to the Netherlands. Before I left, however, I was determined to do a farewell trip through East Africa. Luckily for me two friends were eager to join me. We decided to do a motorcycle trip around Lake Victoria. Let me give it a try to describe in words how this trip blew my mind and still puts a smile on my face today: East Africa by motorbike – this is how you do it!

After a long struggle choosing between local-bikes and Japanese ones we chose a Skymark 125 cc. It was both the price and the fact that the locals know these bikes (which means there are spare parts at hand in case of breakdowns) that led us to this choice. We started the trip in my backyard: the Usumbara Mountains, immediately rough terrain. Within the first 10 kilometres, all three of us felt the magic of the bike: invincible, a cocktail of an immense sense of freedom and a healthy dose of anxiety about what was ahead in the weeks to come.

The best thing about East Africa by motorbike

For me, the continuous contact with your surrounding is by far the best part of riding a motorbike. You can hear schoolchildren yelling, you can greet the police when you pass their posts, you can make eye contact with oncoming pedestrians: it’s these things that make the motor experience so extraordinary. I didn’t realise this before starting the trip but, but it was exactly this what made the trip so unforgettable.

Whenever we heard or saw something interesting we just pulled over and mingled with the locals. We helped them fishing but more often we needed their favours. Repairing the bike, grabbing some local food, getting a new haircut, washing the bike or simply asking for directions.

A steady speed touring around Lake Victoria 

Touring around Lake Victoria, we crossed Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. As true motor-cyclers we tracked every meter of this trip with a GPS watch and, as became evident from the tracking overview, the local bikes did not manage to go faster that 88,9 km/h. I’m even sure that this top speed must have been measured downhill…  And with all the stops along the way, our average speed turned out to be very modest. People often asked me whether we ever got tired driving the bike all day, but it was the exact opposite. Driving with some vague indications from an old Lonely Planet guide never got dull: it felt like an exploration expedition.

Worried about safety

My friends, and definitely my parents, were questioning the safety of this trip regarding road conditions, reckless drivers, us being an easy target, the situation in Rwanda, wild animals, police and border patrol, etc.… During the six weeks we were stopped once in Nairobi and the policeman instructed us to put on our yellow jackets. Furthermore the roads (highway and dirt roads) are perfectly doable, even for inexperienced drivers. We never felt threatened in any way: some night we even put up camp in the middle of nowhere, complete wilderness.

A once in a lifetime experience 

The combination of freedom, adventure; seeing new things every single day, the things that are not documented in books or the internet, beautiful nature, wildlife and the constant contact with the local people makes it without doubt the best way to visit see the African continent.

Coming home after the six weeks I realised the trip was far better than I had ever dared to dream. Not only I could show my best friends the beauty and friendliness of East Africa but it also broadened the perspectives towards the African culture. It gave context to poverty, to education, to family and friendship, to social systems and governmental influence.  The hospitality and happiness of the African people confronts the people from the Western world, with the important things we are forgetting these days!

Are you seeking a similar experience? Want to have more information on how travel East Africa by motorbike? Or maybe you want to see how Charles and I got chased by an elephant: get in touch with Charles, and find out for yourself how magical a trip on two wheels can be!

Find more information on travelling by motorbike through Africa on Charlie’s Motor Safaris.

Kitesurfing East Africa: legendary

 

Hi(gh) kiters!

Kitesurfing East Africa: this is why!

I’ll keep this one short, I know we prefer reading wind & weather reports…;) Let me give you a list of reasons of why you should come to kite in East Africa :

 

  1. It’s Africa
  2. Let me highlight this one…AFRICA!
  3. Reliable and consistent winds
  4. Warm water, ladies, warm water
  5. No crowded waters (yet) in East Africa
  6.  White beaches & turquoise water
  7. Flat water & waves all year around
  8. You can actually kite from Mozambique to Tanzania!
  9. No trash, no pollution
  10. Plenty of sandy space to peacefully launch and land your kite
  11. No wind? So what! Go on a safari, go snorkelling, diving, motorbiking – whatever!
  12. Rustic and charming accommodations in for all different classes!

And don’t forget, no sharks around!

 

New group on Facebook

Check this out! Our currently still developing Facebook page: Charlie’s Kitesurf Safaris ! Also, see this blog about Kitesurf Adrenaline on the Kenyan coast – good stuff!

Contact me if you want more info… Kitesurf@charlies-travels.com

X Franziska

Mt. Suswa Kenya – Marijke & Philip